For the second time in 10 days, Seattle Sounders FC came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat the Houston Dynamo, winning 2-1 on Tuesday night at Starfire Sports and Entertainment Complex to advance to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.
Stephen King cleaned up a defensive mistake in extra time as Sounders FC guaranteed they will be playing for at least one championship in their expansion season in Major League Soccer.
Ade Akinbiyi collected a loose ball and blasted it into the right corner of the net in the 32nd minute to give the Dynamo a 1-0 lead. The scoring play started off a free kick sent wide by Brad Davis and the ball ultimately bounced to Akinbiyi's feet off a header from Sounders FC defender Tyrone Marshall.
But in the 89th minute, Nate Jaqua dramatically equalized for Sounders FC to send the match into extra time.
Then Sounders FC went ahead 2-1 in the 95th minute when King punched in a sliding 10-yard shot when a Houston defender failed to control the ball after a cross from the left by Seattle rookie Steve Zakuani.
Sounders FC kept attacking the remainder of the overtime and buttoned things up on defense to guarantee they will have a chance to win a championship, a $100,000 purse and a possible berth in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League in their inaugural season in MLS.
Seattle has won four matches in Open Cup games at Starfire in a run that started with the first round of MLS play-in games. Sounders FC now travel to face D.C. United for the Open Cup championship at RFK Stadium on Sept. 2.
It was the second time in four seasons the Dynamo lost in the semifinals, losing to the Los Angeles Galaxy in their inaugural season in Houston.
The teams met 10 days earlier -- with a nearly identical result. Sounders FC knocked off Houston 2-1 at Qwest Field on July 11 in the first-ever meeting of the two clubs, rallying from a 1-0 deficit. Both teams were depleted by injuries and players leaving to play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Houston nearly cashed in for an early lead in the sixth minute when Dominic Oduro's volley shot from about 12 yards skidded past the right post. Oduro's shot was set up by a pass from Erik Ustruck.
Seattle defender James Riley was close on a 23-yard blast in the 11th minute, forcing Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall to tip the scorching shot over the crossbar.
The match started out physical with Sounders FC forward Jaqua suffering a cut on his head that required a gauze headband, which had to be changed when it was soaked in blood. Also, Seattle midfielder Sebastien Le Toux had to come to the sidelines for treatment on a cut on his face.
Montero squandered a 1-on-1 opportunity in the 18th minute against Hall, who was retreating as Montero attempted to gain control of the ball and fire a shot before defenders arrived but he couldn't. Tyson Wahl sent a ball through to a streaking Montero near the top of the box to set up the close call.
After Akinbiyi gave the visitors the first-half advantage, Seattle nearly scored the equalizer in the 48th minute, but Hall made a punch save on a header by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado's header of a Le Toux corner kick.
Houston teammates Danny Cruz and Brad Davis collided going for a loose ball with Cruz getting the worst of it with a cut on his head in the 53rd minute.
Hurtado narrowly headed the ball wide right at the right post in the 61st minute off a quick free kick by Le Toux from 35 yards out.
Zakuani, a 61st-minute substitute, nearly converted a shot from 15 yards on the left side, but it banged off the intersection of the crossbar and the right post in the 73rd minute. Then Osvaldo Alonso missed wide left on the rebound attempt.
Riley sent in a long ball from the right and Montero banged a shot into to crowd, possibly hitting one of his teammates, during a bang-bang series in the 83rd minute.
Hurtado then shot high over the bar in the 86th after Seattle put pressure on Houston during a four-minute stretch with four shots on goal.
With mere minutes left in Sounders FC's dream to get to the Open Cup final, Jaqua hammered a left-footed shot to the back line and off a sliding Kei Kamara of the Dynamo and into the net to knot the match at 1-1 in the 89th minute. The play started with passes from Le Toux to Roger Levesque, who touched the ball to Jaqua.
Sounders FC dominated the second half, especially in the final five minutes and stoppage time of regulation. Seattle had 12 shots to none for Houston in the second half and outshot the Dynamo 16-2 in regulation. Sounders FC ended with a total shots advantage of 26-7 for the game (12-4 on goal) as Hall was called upon to make 10 saves for Houston.
King's goal in extra time gave Sounders FC the edge they needed to reach the final. But they suffered a blow late in the match when Hurtado picked up his second yellow card of the match in the 110th minute, his second of the night to earn an ejection, meaning he will be suspended for the final against D.C. United.
Matt Massey is a contributor to MLSnet.com